Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Happy holidays from Abu Dhabi!

We wish everyone a smashing 2008!

As tradition has it, I've put up my Filipino Parol! (Not that anyone except from the people in the building across from us can see it, since it's up on the 10th floor, but it's the thought that counts, eh? ;)
Here's some more exuberant versions from the Philippines:

We'd like to thank everyone for their support of our big step moving to Abu Dhabi this past year! We could not have done it without all of you! We miss you all dearly, and we extend a warm welcome to anyone who'd like to come visit! :)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Observations on driving in U.A.E. - part I

When cars -be it 10 or 100- are waiting in front of a 'robot' (as my South African friends call it so endearingly), or traffic light as we call it, and the light turns green, the last car, all the way in the back, will simultaneously -as if magically connected to the traffic light- honk his horn to let everyone know that the light actually has turned green and is his way of showing his displeasure at the fact that no one has started moving yet.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

My First Car Accident

First let me assure you that nobody was hurt during the event, now here is the whole story of my first car accident. :)

A bit of background on the car situation. Remember Q has a nice shiny Lexus? Well, I wasn't comfortable driving it since I was still a very new driver and AD traffic is crazy and dangerous (this in itself should be a tourist's attraction). As a workaround, we got a Ford Focus rental car recently just for me to practice and get more comfortable. Very important to know: we made sure the rental had zero deductible.

So last Tuesday night, when I came back home with the Ford Focus, I tried to find a parking spot. Here is the bit with parking here - it is always a headache since underground parking is scarce and with all the surrounding apartment buildings, it can be a problem to find a spot. It's very evident in the photo below: parking lot block is further divided in the middle with a line of parked cars, narrow streets are further narrowed with parked cars, people often blocking others, etc etc.

Anyhow, so I was trying to find a parking spot, and I went into the left lane of a parking lot - realizing then I was against traffic, but I thought to myself, "what the heck, it's 1 am, there shouldn't be any cars around, I should be down at the end of the parking lot in no time." And I was wrong. Just as I was reaching to the end of the parking lot, a SUV pulled up, and nope, it didn't wait for me to exit either, it just barged in and forced me into reversing all the way out of the parking lot. I have to admit I got a little impatient, and half way out of the parking lot, I reversed right into a parked car's rear end. I can't tell you how stupid and upset I felt at that moment.

Still very shaken, I managed to park my car and inspected the damage. Well, the first thing I noticed was that the parked car was another nice shiny Lexus! :-O There were some paint scratches at the corner of the bumper, but the victim car was still in good shape. Similar story with mine, except my bumper came out a little on the side. Well, here in UAE regardless of the scale of an accident, even if it's just a small scratch against a wall, a police report is required before any mechanic could work on the car. So I got over the shame and made myself call the police (999). It turned out by the end of the night I made a total of 4 emergency phone calls!

The first call is to report the accident and location. The second call is to tell them that they drove past me and had to come back. (Recall in AD there is no street address, so spotting someone in a sea of car pools is pretty tricky especially at night. I was waving my arm like a mad woman - oh dear, what a scene!) I was very lucky that at least one of the two police officers spoke decent English, but I was told that my car's registration sticker had expired (the darn sticker was in Arabic numerals, ack!), and I had to go to the police station with them, right away! After talking to the rental company and the police again, it seemed that I had no other choice, so I decided to follow the police car to the station. But before I managed to pull my car out, the police car took off so fast that you'd think they were practicing their Die Hard moves. So lost and confused, I made the third call to the police hotline, asking for direction. That turned out to be a disaster since they couldn't tell me where the police station was other than that's on MuroorYonge street in Toronto - going for miles. In the end, I was told to go home and sleep, and call in the second day morning. Fine. After I reparked my car, as I walked away, I noticed that my driver's license was missing! Of course the police officers took it! So I had to call the emergency number a fourth and last time. At 3 am, I was finally back at home, unscratched, but without my driver's license nor police report, and then I realized I had no idea what the police officers' names were. Yah, I was definitely having a blond moment. (FYI, Q was on night shift when all this happened.)

The second day turned out much better. Q talked the rental company into sending a car to take me to the police station and help sort out all the paper work. Later that day I went to the rental car and swapped for a Mazda 6, which I drove off with the hand brake on and only realized after Q helped troubleshoot over the phone. *Sigh.* I figured the more mistakes I make, the more I learn, right?!

So all in all, nobody was hurt, I didn't have to pay for any of the damages, I have a police report as souvenir even though I can't read it since it's all in Arabic (see photo below), and there were a lot of lessons learned.

Other than the car accident, there are a few other things as well, like my first job offer (but I declined nicely), Q's trip to Kuwait, our first couchsurfing guest, and in three days, Wads (Q's mom) visiting AD! So, more to come, stay tuned... :)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Shu Means What

This is the conversation I had with a Scottish I met at a salsa brunch yesterday afternoon.

Scottish:"So what's your name?"
Shu:"Shu - it's a Chinese name."
Scottish:"Shu means what?"
Scottish repeated himself:"Shu means what?"
I repeated myself:"Comfort."
Scottish repeated himself again.
By now I was seriously confused, and then it finally occurred to me - I only found out recently that "shu" meant "what" in Arabic!!

Well, I guess it could've been worse. :)

p.s. On a separate note, apparently not everyone on our mailing list has been receiving our email spam. FYI, Q and I are looking into the problem. Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Indonesia is Incredible!

Back in Toronto amusement park, there's this giant wooden rollercoaster that is extra scary because it can get oh-sooo-shakey, well, imagine doing that for 3 weeks, without the safety buckle - that's how Q and I bumped our way with a Honda Tiger 2000 through Indonesian islands! ;) Even though Q was an off-road virgin prior to the trip, by now he has become somewhat experienced, after a burnt-out clutch and a flat tire, both in the middle of nowhere!

During the three weeks, we essentially submerged ourselves into the rural villages and fields of the beautiful country side. I was surprised to see how organic and agricultural the life was there - we barely saw any building with more than one level! The people are very adorable, warm, friendly and, most importantly, happy! Of the four islands we travelled through (Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores), we spent over a week on the volcano-dotted Flores and it was also our favorite - gotta love the fact that the only time we had hot water bath during the week was at a hot spring. :) Don't get me wrong, it definitely wasn't an easy country by any means - the group experienced corruption, sun burn, starvation, dehydration, heat stroke and lotsa and lotsa delays. Read this solo motorcyclist's story for a better idea. On the side note, the local mosquitos had a feast over my sweet blood - at one point my bite count was over 100! Oh well, the lesson learnt is not to leave the essential purchases for the destination country - in a country like Indonesia, good luck finding contact lens solution! Here is the photo album with ~260 pics. The trip was organized by MotorTrails.nl, which means we travelled with a few other Dutch: Rob, Nicole, Erwin, Simon, Jeroen, Jan, Micheal and Joost. They were great companions and made the trip even more wonderful! Thanks to Joost for being the best tour guide there is for Indonesia. Thanks to Erwin for still laughing and singing even facing the hardest situation. Thanks to Simon for the wonderful smiles from Day 1! Thanks to Rob for being the team mechanic. Thanks to Jeroen for all the Amsteram-style funnies, including giving me a new nickname - "Spongebob"! And finally thanks to Q for driving me through all the distance and telling me that "I'm not leaving you behind!" :) Here's the team photo:

Now that we are back, Q already went back to his regular work schedule. Since I have done my fair share of travelling, I have decided that it is time to settle down more and start job searching. Wish me luck! :)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Joy in Thailand

After months living in Abu Dhabi, Q and I took our first together-trip to Thailand. Even though it was quite short (only six days), it was joyful nevertheless, filled with - you guessed it - food. Anyways, photos are worth a thousand words, so here they are, all through Q's observing eyes (In case you are wondering, I left my camera at home thanks to my blondeness).

As for impression of the country, we both felt that we barely scratched the surface, and will definitely go back for more. To me, it was even a bit interesting since it's my first Asian country outside China, it was, different yet familiar. I was relieved to see the Thais seemed to have done a better job in preserving the some traditions, but just about everywhere supermarkets are popping up, cornering out the local markets, so maybe it's just a matter of time.

With just a few days back home, we're itching to set off on a month-long journey in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Should be very exciting!!!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Children in Cars

Here in UAE we have noticed that most of the time the children are not strapped into any sort of seat belts, let alone baby seats. Q and I often gasp at the sight of kids running around wild in moving vehicles and sticking their little heads from the back seat row to the front.

A couple days ago I saw one that was the case at its worst display. As a car was pulling away from a parking lot, I saw the driver (I'm guessing the father) was holding a baby with one arm and steering wheel in another, and the baby was only too happy to drink from its milk bottle. The mother sat in the seat next to the driver, and she had a little boy standing in front of her knees. Yeah, what a great family outing! ...NOT! (Sorry, that was my Borat imitation slipped out.)

This is particularly a problem if you read the news article today that apparently there were over 240,000 accidents reported last year on Dubai roads alone, and that is about one every two minutes. I only hope the local authority will start some awareness campaign sooner rather than later.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The fire scare

It's been three months since we moved into the apartment. After about 2 dozen false fire alarms during those months, today we finally got the real fire scare.
This afternoon the fire alarm kept going off. We tried to ignore it, as proper ignorant citizens should do, but when we actually smelled smoke enter our apartment through the ventilation system, we thought it best to head down the fire escape.

And it proved a sound decision. On the way down, there was smoke building up on the 8th floor. In only a few minutes the Fire Department (or, as they call themselves, Civil Defense) and Police were on location and proceeded to fight the fire.
It turned out to be an 'ordinary' kitchen fire, and they managed to extinguish the fire quite quickly. But it did alert us to what could happen so easily!
Fortunately no one got hurt, and our apartment is fine. We could return to it after an hour and a half.

Interesting thing... even as we already were standing outside for half an hour, people sporadically still were coming out of the building. People who earlier obviously had ignored or not heard the fire alarm...

Yes, time to get our home insurance set up!

Kol A'Am Entt Bekheer!

Kol A'Am Entt Bekheer is how you can greet a friend when you see each other for the first time during Ramadan, pronounced as 'kol aam entuh begeer' (for Dutchies).

'Ramadan Kareem!' is different way of greeting people, and certainly much easier to remember!

Ramadan, the holiest month for Muslims, has begun. This year it started on Sept 13th and will finish on Oct 12th in UAE (each country's calendar can be different based on the ministries' moon reading). Among a few other things, one of the most important aspects of Ramadan is that Muslims have to fast (i.e. no food or drink) from sunrise to sunset, and additional prayers throughout the day.

For us non-Muslims, even though we are not part of the Ramadan, our lives are noticeably affected by it. We are not allowed to eat or drink in public during daylight hours, so we have to wait until we get get back to the privacy of our home (or for instance here at work in the recreation room). A lot of restaurants are closed during the Holy Month, some do open, but they only deliver during the day and then open only after night falls. Rumor has it that some restaurants are open during daylight, but windows are blinded - we have yet to find those!

We also notice the other side: when the sun sets, people break their fasts with Iftar, a meal containing a lot of sweets. Often the first thing they eat is a date. It is celebrated together with family and loved ones in big tents setup throughout the city. We are still looking forward to joining one of the Iftar celebrations. Other perks are shorter working hours for a lot of people, which unfortunately doesn't include me... (Shu is happy, since her comfort food restaurant has extended it's opening hours until 2.30 am!)

We are warned by other expats that the half hour before Iftar is the most dangerous time of day to be in the streets, as people are tired since they have been up long (they have breakfast before sunrise), haven't eaten or drunk anything for hours, and want to join their families for Iftar. This makes them speed (well, when don't they speed!), and generally more reckless while driving. That's why it's no surprise that minor accidents caused massive traffic jam in Dubai yesterday. Half an hour after Iftar starts, the situation is back to normal... you might even call it 'quiet'!

Last night after the first day of Ramadan, it was celebrated in Abu Dhabi with a huge display of fireworks on the Corniche. We went with a group of friends and it was very impressive. (funny side-note, the event was announced only sporadically, so there were not that many spectators. This apparently is 'normal' around here... big (free!) events don't get advertised as much for some reason, and don't get the attention it deserves)

Anyways... we'll only see part of the Ramadan celebrations here in Abu Dhabi, since we'll be on holidays for a few weeks... among others to Malaysia, also an Islamic country and Indonesia, only the biggest Islamic country in the world ;) well, actually, it will be interesting to see how people practise Ramadan in these different countries! And we'll be in Indonesia when Eid, the end of Ramadan, is celebrated!

Read more on Ramadan, Iftar and Eid on Wikipedia. And also a blog on Ramadan around the world.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

塞翁失马, 焉知非福

The Chinese idiom refers to an ancient tale of a man who lost his horse, but gained when his horse returned a few days later with another horse. The moral of the story is that misfortune may actually be a blessing. This was my case when I was stuck at the Geneva airport on the late night of Tuesday, August 14th.

(Rewind to a month ago. Sorry for the delay in sharing!)

My original return ticket from Geneva to Abu Dhabi was a booked ticket for Sept 11th, and since I wanted to return early (4 weeks was already quite along away from Q and new home!), I tried my luck with stand-by ticket on August 14th. I don't know how many of you have had similar experience, but now I've done it, I have to say it can cause a great deal of anxiety and excitement and if you are unlucky like I was, disappointment. I was told that the flight was overbooked, but following Q's advice, I stayed at the gate till the plane took off, and boy was I upset when I was told to go home. It means I was stuck at Geneva for at least two days before trying again with the next outbound flight.

Lucky for me, my couchsurfing host Karine let me crash at her apartment again! Very bummed I arrived at Karine's almost near midnight, but very quickly we came to the idea of going to Interlaken for some adrenaline rush! The next morning we were well on our way to some world-class white-water rafting and parachuting! Needless to say, we had an awesome time! For your viewing pleasure, here is a series of action photos from the rafting trip (click to open, I'm the front-left paddler):

here is a video clip of Karine and her parachute pilot during take-off:

And here is a clip of my parachute during landing:

Later that night we arrived back at Karine's to the good news of a confirmed flight ticket for the following day. All of sudden, missing previous day's flight didn't seem so bad! Two days later, I came back to Abu Dhabi safely with just a few more travel stories. Love it!

UAE Facts and Why Abu Dhabi

First, here are some facts about UAE to help people understand us better:

Fact about the country. U.A.E. stands for "United Arab Emirates" and is a country in the Middle East region, which is part of the Asia continent. The country has seven emirates and each emirate has its own ruler (and rules of course), but together they are united under one governing body, hence the name.

Fact about the rulers. The head of the UAE governing body is the ruler of Abu Dhabi emirate. His full title is "UAE President, Ruler of Abu Dhabi, His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan" with "HH Sheikh Khalifa" in short. Following him is "UAE Vice President and Prime Minister, Ruler of Dubai, His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum" with "HH Sheikh Mohammed" in short. FYI, "sheikh" means "prince", "bin" means "son of", and "al" indicates the family name. If you ever visit UAE, you will see posters of big and small with photos of the rulers everywhere:
Fact about the twin cities. Abu Dhabi is the capital city of U.A.E. and Dubai is the biggest city. They are just about 1.5 hr drive apart from each other - without traffic jams of course. (Q says just over 1 hr, but then he speeds and I don't, yet.)

For those of you who asked why Abu Dhabi, Q and I picked it for three main reasons: our passion for a distinctly-different culture, a central location for further travelling and a decent income - simple as that! When Q's friend Maarten the Super Chef suggested Dubai to us, we jumped on the idea right away with a scouting trip earlier in February. As it turned out, Dubai was very impressive, but a bit overwhelming considering how fast and aggressive it grows, so we decide to opt for the lower-key Abu Dhabi, which sits on an island sorta like the Manhattan. This way we can enjoy the less-crazy city life and it's an easy drive to Dubai if we crave for something bigger.

p.s. For those who have shown great concern about my driving, I ensure you that I have successfully passed the honking exercise, i.e. not panicking even when getting honked.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Interview with my old work

My old work in The Netherlands, LVNL, interviewed me about my move to a new country and job. They published the result in their monthly magazine distributed among their employees.

Click the picture to read the article (mind you, it's in Dutch....)

(for some strange reason the article refers me working at Nadia International Airport, this is a mistake, I actually don't work in any airport. let alone that one...=)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Garlic sauce!

Shu forgot to mention the ***garlic sauce*** they give with every platter.... seriously delicious and very potent stuff (imagine garlic breath cone for hours!)


(should you visit, expect to try it yourself!)

Comfort Food

I am so happy that I have found (and double-confirmed!) my first official comfort food in AD - it is the starter salad served at the Lebanese Grill restaurant! As shown below, the salad is composed of two small bowls of olives (dark and light), one dipping sauce (often hummus) and one big plate of various greens like fresh wine leaves, green onion, green pepper, baby radish, and sorted pickles. The best part is it is all *free* as long as the main order is a platter dish (instead of just sandwiches), which are in the range of AED 20 (~6 dollars or 4 euros). The main platter I had tonight had two grilled hammour fillets with fries and grilled tomato and onion slices. My breath stank terribly after indulging in such wonderful food, but oh dear, was my tummy happy! :)

Hooray for us, the restaurant is conveniently located across our building, and I am slowly becoming a regular since I go there sometimes when Q is at work and I don't feel like cooking alone. (The latter clause is quite redudant actually if you know me. ;)

Needless to say, Q likes it too since he was so enthusiastic to tell me about Lebanese Grill in the first place. :)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Check out our new wheels!

Ok, ok, I've actually had it for over 10 days now... but still...

This is our new ride!

I surprised Shu with it when she arrived back from her travels in Central Europe, and the past 4 days we took it for a spin to the east coast of U.A.E., Fujairah, where we went diving as well!
It took me a good 3 months before finally deciding which car to buy, and it is this one, the Lexus IS300. A pre-owned car, with only 8000 km on the dial. It is in 'local' style white, and I had the windows tinted as well (which is both used as a fashion statement by the locals, but also helps with keeping your car that little bit cooler during the hot months).

And so far... it has been a dream to drive! And if all goes well, Shu should have her driving license (she needed to convert her Canadian one to a U.A.E. one) and will be able to drive it as well!

Here's a link with more info:
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I've passed!

After successfully doing my final practical, written *and* oral exam (yes, three exams... they love giving exams...), I now am a certified Air Traffic Control Officer in U.A.E. ACC! :)

I am one happy camper!

Blonder than Blond!

I am in Zurich. As I am typing up this post, I have no choice but putting up with my quite dry contact lenses for a bit longer, because I lost my prescription glasses, that and a few more things. (Yes, Troy, even the guts and smarts wear out sometimes. :)

So the story. After spending the past two nights in Salzburg, this morning I woke up at 5:30 A.M. to catch a train to Innsbruck, my last Austrian city for this trip. At 8:30 A.M, I arrived at Innsbruck train station. I quickly stored away my big backpack in one of the very modern and secure-looking luggage lockers and started exploring the city. Later in the afternoon I got back to the train statio to pick up my luggage before hopping on the next train continuing to Zurich. When I put the printed ticket in the machine, the locker popped open right away - except it was completely *empty*! Immediately I was thinking high-tech theft! I called the train station security, I went to the police station, I insisted on checking video survillience tape to find the thief, and did I mention I could't understand any of the converstations because they spoke German? Basically I was in pretty $hitty situation.

Mind you, I did have all the essentials like passport and credit cards with me, but boy, did I feel like a mother lost her child - for those of you who know, I am very attached to my bag and wool socks and a few other things. Anyway, long story short, about 1.5 hour searching later, finally the security officer got a callback from the video team. You should've seen my reaction when he told me that apparently I put my bag in one locker, and closed a different (and empty!) one!!! GOSH, did I feel stupid. No offence to anyone, but I was blonder than blonde!

Just as I was about to give up hope after we went through almost all the lockers, it dawned on me that we should check the lost-and-found department. A few minutes later, we received a call and very lucky for me a cleaner picked up my bag from some corner, but apparently the camera tape showed a young man discovered my bag, went through it quickly and took away some items on the outside pockets including my glasses, spare cell phone, flash light (that's "torch" for you Europeans), and some chargers for electronics - but I didn't care. I was just *so* happy to get my bag back. Anyway, here is a photo to prove the episode:
Thinking back, in retrospective, I would still manage if I did lose my bag, the more important thing like Q said "as long as you are safe."

I must also mention my CS stay in Salzburg was excellent! My host Michael led me transpassing private property to see an original movie location for The Sound of Music! That and a few other very Salzburg things like watching kayaks and outdoor opera screening. Here is a photo of my sleep corner, dedicated to the Toronto lunch crew. :)

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Check out my new wheels!

No, the bike's not blocking the view of my new ride, the bike is my new ride!

It's a Pakistani bike! Not as sturdy as the Dutch counterparts, but then again, this was quite a bit cheaper!
So now I can bike to locations which I don't want to drive to (parking can be horrible) and are too far to walk to! And of course it gives me much needed exercise...

And it'll carry Shu on the back :)

(by the by, everyone I've seen biking on these Paki bikes leaves the bubble-wrap and cardboard wrapping on, so I do too! It might be the most vital part holding this thing together!)

Friday, August 10, 2007

Couchsurfing (Mis)adventures

Greetings from Vienna! Hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the summer! As you know, I have been on the couchsurfing quest for the past couple weeks while travelling through Europe, and thought you might enjoy some of my (mis)adventure stories.

So it all started with Rosario in Lausanne, and I have blogged about the experience in my last post. This is her showing where I slept, basically a mattress on the floor next to her dorm bed.

Then it was with Karine in Geneva. She took me in even when she already had another CS guest! Very sweet of her to do a picnic in the park with me - great outdoor music venue btw. I slept in the living room foldable couch-bed. Karine was very considerate to keep Socrates, her dog, in her room overnight to keep him away from sniffing me. :)
During my stay in the Netherlands, I was very well taken care of at Hotel Wijnberg, a.k.a. Wads and Bart´s (N.B. Q´s parents) house, and later on at Anne´s fabulous apartment in Amsterdam centrum. (Sorry, no photos avail here.)

Ivan met me outside Namesti Miru (Miru Square) church when I arrived in Prague a week ago. At his (and his three housemates) apartment, I stayed four nights. It was one of the classic communist-era apartment with high ceiling and huge gates - definitely a unique experience. Ivan was very nice to offer his own room, which I politely declined and opted for the kitchen/hallway/dining room where there was a futon-like bed. I had a great time getting to know two other CS hosts, Mats and Brano. Funny thing was all three of them were Slovak, not Czech! Here is a photo of Ivan on the train ride leaving Prague just before we said goodbye and I went on to Cesky Krumlov.
Cesky Krumlov is a beautiful small town in south Czech. Unfortunately there weren´t any CS hosts. Thanks to Jane, an Aussie girl´s referral, I stayed in Hostel Postel for one night - that was my first commercial accomodation on this trip, not bad, I say. At the same time, I also met Martijn and Quintus, a pair of father and son from the Netherlands. After seeing how beautiful C. Krumlov was, I decided to stay one night longer. Just as I was scratching my head about where to stay, it just happened Martijn´s hotel room had an attic with an extra bed. As he semi-joked about `you girls could´ve stay in the extra bed´, I happily took the offer, so the second night I was sleeping in a hotel room attic. How cool was that! Here is a photo ofo Martijn when we were rafting down River Vltara.
After the attic surf, I made my way to another city called Ceske Budejovice (the hometown to the original Budweiser), where I had the most trouble finding a place. Since the CS host I contacted didn´t respond to my txtmsgs when I arrived, I decided to look around bus station for a place to stay overnight since I had an early bus to catch the following day. The first hotel I saw was junk, then the second one looked better, but asked for a lot more money, so while I was trying to bargain the price down, a guy from the restaurant came up and asked if he could help, so I explained my situation, and it turned out Petri was a fellow traveller from Finland, and he recommended his hotel. Since my map of the area wasn't good, and I was also hungry, so I decided to join him for dinner and waited till afterwards so he can take me to the hotel. (N.B. I know how fishy this story sounds, but it gets better! :) After dinner and a pleasant conversation, we headed to Petri´s hotel, and surprise surprise, the hotel reception was closed!! Even though according to the sign, it was supposed to open till 10 pm! So I was stuck yet again, and it was already getting dark. At that point, I was debating going back to the second hotel and just bite the bullet, when Petri suggested (out of his guilty conscious for ´misleading´ me, but really wasn´t his fault), so he suggested that his room had two single beds and I could take the second one. Now, in a strange city, with a complete stranger, even I had to think about it, only if you could see how fast my head was spinning! :) So after a second´s thought, I responded, "That is really generous offer, but I have two conditions: one is for me to share half of the hotel room cost, and the other is to exchange passport info." And that is what we agreed! I txtmsged Petri´s info back to Q for safety sake. As luck would have it, a few minutes after we settled down in the hotel room, I got a txtmsg from the CS host, apparently the cell phone number she gave me earlier was off by one digit. GOSH! I still met up with the CS host very quickly and explained the situation but still went ahead with Petri´s room. In the end, everything worked out great, and I managed to get up at 4:30 am to catch my bus. All is well. (Sorry, no photo here either.)

After leaving Czech, I made my way to Moritz and Angela´s apartment in downtown Vienna. It is a very nice location and space, and I have my own futon bed - nice setup! The first night after I arrived, we went dinner with a few other CS hosts - apparently the Vienna CS group is very active, and there are regular and frequent meetings. Here is a photo from the dinner, from left to right: Pawel, Moritz, Angela and Stefan.

So thanks to everyone I met on the way, couchsurfing has been a great experience. Oh, and I must give a special thanks to my support team back home for helping with my CS search. Till next time!

p.s. After a few stops in Austria, I am heading back to Geneva next Tuesday, hoping to catch an earlier flight back to Abu Dhabi. *Fingers crossed!*

Monday, August 6, 2007

You know it's getting humid when...

...every time you step outside your (sun)glasses fog up...

It used to happen every now and again, but now it happens every time, day or night, stepping out of any building or your car. And the temperature is up as well, we've seen 46 degrees Celsius so far!

The good news... I'm still ok with it! Then again, it's still not at its worst, rumour has it... ;)

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

26 hours in The Emirates

July 8, 11.00PM a KLM-plane dropped a bold headed, unprepared globetrotter in the heat of Dhubai. At the airport, the welcome committee was there to assure a soft landing. Although there were no welcome boards, the welcome committee was not to be missed; between
some Arab Princes a Philipino guy could easily be recognized and in the women-line a Chinese lady on flipflops looks still rather different than the burka-women out of the Emirates. Q's Knight Intelligent Two Thousand (KITT) brought us in 1.5 hours to the residential scene of Abu Dhabi. In one of the fine looking high-story buildings, I got introduced to the more familiar gadget household of King Q III. Probably it will change a bit the coming weeks when his lady is fully installed as well. Another soft landing was the cold beer from the fridge, the good-old "haringmaatjes" taken along from Schiphol and the small birthday songs for Q and Shu.

Next day sightseeing in the heat of AbuDhabi................... And there is far more to see than just white sand!!!!!! Everything is under construction and the most astronomous projects are rolled-out (all with very good taste!!). It turned out that Q's KITT is one of the least expensive cars driving around. And apart from that you will also notice that the Westerners are 2nd rank citizens here; beautiful houses, shops, cars, palaces and mosks show that there is some money to spend. The Emirates is a way of living which this globetrotter has not experienced yet and unfortunatelly my stop-over lasted only 26 hours, but I can assure you Q and Shu you'll be having an excellent experience the coming years! Q it was good to see you after such a long time and I bet it's not the last time that you'll see me in The Emirates. Thanks for everything,

Sailing was great!

Shu and I paid a quick visit to The Netherlands -the first time since I left in May- to attend a wedding (congratulations N&F!) and go sailing with some friends.
It was a very hectic few days (would you expect anything else from us?), but definitely a lot of fun.
I'm already back in UAE, back to work, Shu's in Amsterdam staying with a friend and leaving for Prague tomorrow.

We were very lucky with the weather. Predictions told us to basically expect anything, from rain, showers, occasional lightning, the works... But thanks to the ever-reliable Ferdinandt Goed Weer Garantie (Ferdinandt Good Weather Guarantee), we stayed dry the whole time and even enjoyed a very welcome 4-5 beaufort wind, which made for excellent sailing!
At night, around 10 of the 30 people were very busily preparing dinner, which resulted in a very delicious (if I may say so myself) barbecue! Yes, there was saté-sauce made by yours truly! ;)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Let the Travelling Begin!

Greetings from the beautiful Lake Geneva in Switzerland! :)

Nobody saw it coming, but it did happen. Under the spell of "inshallah", I was able to get my UAE residence visa (and therefore my Canadian passport back) last Thursday, which allowed me to travel again. Since my cousin Fang from China is on a business trip in Switzerland, I decided to meet up with her - with Q's wonderful support of course. So the next thing I know, I was on a plane to Geneva.

I love the fact that I get to meet some really interesting people when travelling. The guy sitting next to me on the plane was a Lebanese who grew up in Saudi and UAE, studied in Switzerland, and now work in Boston. My couchsurf host last night is a Mexican, studied in Montreal and now study Ph.D. in Switzerland. There were so much stories shared - it's truly amazing.

So yes, I managed to couchsurf again - yipee! My CS host Rosario was totally cool, and I was apparently very lucky to find her because she is not busy with work at this point and between travelling herself. We had an amazing time biked down along the lake and bought freshly-made baguette, prosciutto, cheese, tomatos and spinach from grocery store, borrowed cutlery from some restaurant, and asked for some salad dressing from another picnic party - bueno, a nice picnic on the beach! C'est la vie. :)

In five days, I will be flying from Geneva to Amsterdam, reuniting with Q for the weekend to attend a friend's wedding and also some motorcycling and sailing! After that, Q will go back to Abu Dhabi, and I'll take my travelling on to Prague. My current return ticket from Geneva to Abu Dhabi is booked for early September due to over-sold flights, but I hope to return earlier and will try to do standby in late August. The rest will be inshallah. :)

p.s. Did zou know the Swiss kezboard has letter 'y' and 'z' switched? Now zou know. ö

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Everything is Inshallah

Q on the phone with mobile support:"So when can I hear from you about the problem we just talked about?" Support staff:"Soon, sir, inshallah." Q again with another question, and support staff again, "Inshallah, sir".

"Inshallah" means "if God's willing" in Arabic. I heard of it long before I arrived. It's really the universal law that things are based on here - from food delivery to visa application, from test drive reservation to newspaper subscription - everything is inshallah, and people use it in daily conversations, all the time.

So it's been a week since I've arrived in the sand pit. What's changed? Well, the weather for an important one. Except for the first day, I haven't found the hot weather to be a problem! I try to avoid going out at noon hours, but more active in the evening and night like other locals. Most of the local businesses close btwn 1-4 pm and stay open till 10 pm. The city becomes a lot more lively at night when it's cooler.

Another thing I've been getting more used to is the address system here. All the major roads are numbered, like 3rd or 6th street, and they are also given a proper name, like "Sheikh Zayed the First Rd" or "Hamdan bin Mohammod Rd", but neither is used in reality, instead their nicknames are used, like "Najdah Rd" or "Passport Rd" - and you don't find these nicks anywhere in the map, Q taught me most of the ones I've managed to memorize so far. :) And when people describes their addresses, it's never number + road name, they are referenced by the major building landmark nearby, like hotels, malls or banks. For example, when I ordered my first food delivery, I gave my address like "the Emirates Bank building next to the Nissan showroom on Najdah Rd (N.B. nickname for the 6th Street), Rm ####" and 20 min later, I had hot food knocking on the apartment door! And it's not just the delivery service, taxi and other locals do the same thing. Of course it gets even more complicated when within each major blocks there are local numbered streets like 3rd or 6th street, but the trick is that they are in green signs, whereas the major roads are in blue! :D The system is so confusing and tricky - we both love it. :)

(P.S. Mailing addresses are different though as apartments don't deliver mail - no, I'm not making this up! Everyone uses PO Box here. Q and I have decided to go with the PO Box from his work for now.)

A couple days ago I made my first official shopping visit to the Abu Dhabi Mall - 15 min easy walk from the apartment. And to my pleasant surprise, I met a fellow Canadian woman in a sweet shop (where else?!?). We only had a quick 5 min conversation, but managed to exchange contact info for a possible future meetup (I hope!). When I tried to describe to her our apartment location - take this - she actually cut me short and asked me which building it was nearby! The moment I mentioned the Nissan showroom on Najdah Rd, she gave me the got-it look. :) Gotta love the system.

Anyway, my first week went by very fast, and everything has been great - even when Q and I had to learn how to share a thing or two around the apartment, like the laptop. ;) We shall manage though, inshallah. :)

N.B. Next time I (or we) should talk about the foods here - just had yummy and cheap filipino dinner in a ghetto neighbourhood joint - LOVE it! :)

Monday, July 9, 2007

My First Day in Abu Dhabi

After 13 hrs flight, I arrived in Abu Dhabi with one purse, one carry-on bag, four bottles of duty-free single malt whiskey and two check-in luggages - which I must mention were packed using computer monitor boxes for maximum weight-volume capacity. *Insert nerdy smile.*

My first surprise came when I walked through the arrival gate, and there was no Q! Apparently because the flight arrived early and a malfunction in Q's cell phone, he was still at home and I had to spend the first half an hour in AD alone at the airport! I didn't mind it though - it turned out to be quite an interesting experience, as I barely fit in my cart in the tiny elevator in order to get to the washroom a level up - it's hard to believe that there is an airport that is more inconvenient than Toronto Pearson! Anyway, at 8 am local time Sunday morning, Q managed to get to the airport and we finally reunited - yay! And we managed to fit all my luggages in his Ford Focus rental car - double yay!

SO my second surprise came during our drive back home. As we were getting back to the city and just going with the traffic flow, there was a car sticking out from the left-turning lane next to us at the intersection. And just as we were driving through the intersection, there were car tire squealing, a loud bang and next thing you know, car parts flying everywhere - we were at such a close range to witness a quite serious car accident! It looked pretty much like what you see in Hollywood action movies, except too real to be entertained about. Our guess is that the car was trying to make a left turn and didn't see the incoming traffic, oh well, bad situation, good traffic lesson for me. Wowie!

As for the weather, two-thumbs-up to Q for not even complaining about it once in the past two months. I have to admit that I was quite surprised how hot it felt to me. At ~7 am in the morning, it was 30 degrees celcius - ok, still managable. But about an hour later when I stepped out of the car after arriving at the apartment building, oh boy, it felt like my leg was getting steamed when I put it out - I almost pulled it right back in the car! Definitely much hotter than I expected. Later on as the day progressed, I got a lot more comfortable with the heat level. It's funny that when we stepped from air-conditioned indoor shopping mall out to the parking lot, my glasses fogged up instantly - like how they do when we step back indoor in very cold Canadian winter weather! :)

The apartment. Yes, I'm finally here, and typing this posting to you from the living room of *our* apartment. Q did a wonderful job with picking it out and setting it up. And the aparment itself is actually more spacious than I thought. We (yes, "we", not just Q! :) even cooked our first meal in the afternoon - both of us very happy!

My first day in Abu Dhabi ended with a drive with Q to Dubai airport - that's right, two airports in one day - to pick up Q's friend Pim who's visiting in transit between Amsterdam and Shanghai. It's only a one-day short stay, but hey, Pim's our first official visitor!

I'm signing off now - it's 4 am local time. So all in all, a very busy and interesting day, and everyone's happy! Ahh, never a dull moment, huh? ;)

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Shu: Welcome to Abu Dhabi!

Welcome, sweetie, to Abu Dhabi and the start of us living together! :)
(that was the personal part of this blog ;)

As I'm writing this, Shu's airplane should be leaving the Canadian airspace on it's way to Abu Dhabi!
After having spent two months 'setting up camp' here in Abu Dhabi, I am very much ready for Shu to arrive and enjoy this new experience together with me.
To sum things up: everything's going good so far! I'm really enjoying myself, although I very much want Shu to be a part of it. Work has been great, I will blog about this topic soon, I know you all want to know how I'm fairing. Basically, I've done two months training and I need only one more month before I checkout.
I've made new friends, mostly through work. I really like our apartment, it's a nice size, centrally located, I get to work in under 20 mins, walk almost everything in the downtown area.

The next thing I'm looking forward to is Traveling! As most of you know, both Shu and I are avid travelers, and I (we!) can't wait to explore the Middle East, Africa and Asia region, which all are very close! When that happens, this'll be the first place you'll read about it!

(photo taken by my friend 'Mr. G.', it's the Sheik Zayed Grande Mosque, still under construction. It's gigantic! They actually had to scale it down because the original size would've made it bigger than the mosque in Mecca, and that's a big no-no of course!)

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Dance

At Jin and Jason's wedding, I was already quite emotional photographing Neil slow dancing with Jin like a pair of loving father and daughter. After it was over, to my surprise, Neil turned around to me, "Would you like to dance?" Almost instantly tears just welled up in my eyes. "I might cry", I said to him. To which he answered with such a kind smile, "That's what the shoulder is for." You should've seen it - it was so sweet.

Thank you Neil. Thank you Jin.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

W-1 =)

Only one week before Shu arrives in Abu Dhabi! And I have to tell you, I can't wait. The last time we were together was when Shu left The Netherlands on May 1st, and it has been the longest period in our relationship that we have not seen each other for.
Apart from that, I think her arrival will really mark the start of our new adventure.

Shu: good luck, my dear, the coming week with everything that still needs doing. I'm awaiting your arrival eagerly. Our place is all ready!

And on the very same day our first guest will arrive! But he'll be landing in Dubai, so we still have to figure out how to get him to Abu Dhabi. Anyways, to our first guest: we will have the spare bedroom setup for you to enjoy!

In the meantime... I've been playing around a little bit with Google Maps, and here's the result. Mind you, it's a work in progress, I actually intend to use it as our reference map! But you can find our house in there, and if you click Hybrid or Satellite, you will get to see our actual apartment building!

Shu: see you in a week! q:)

Thursday, June 28, 2007


Yes, my days in T.O. have officially kicked into single digit. It's D-9. It seems that I've become too busy to be as excited and sentimental as the past few weeks - interesting.

For those of you who can find your way to Lula Lounge in Toronto this Friday (June 29th), you are invited to my farewell party! It'll be dinner in an excellent and cheap Vietnamese restaurant a few doors down, followed by live salsa music and dancing at Lula, one of my fave spots in T.O. Expect to dance with me! ;)

For your viewing pleasure, I managed to dig up this photo of myself when I co-organized the University of Toronto Dance Club first-ever boat cruise back in 2003. Who would've thought that I'd use it now to promote my own farewell party?! :)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The world is a book...

... and those who do not travel, read only a page. (Saint Augustine)

I read an article in Gulf News this week about a man whose goal it is to travel to as many countries as his age.... which seems more attainable than going for 'every country in the world', or even 100+ (they have their own club, called the Travelers' Century Club).

So I started making my list...
  1. Netherlands
  2. Belgium
  3. Luxemburg
  4. Germany
  5. Denmark
  6. Sweden
  7. Norway
  8. England
  9. Scotland
  10. Ireland
  11. France
  12. Spain
  13. Italy
  14. Sardinia
  15. Switzerland
  16. Liechtenstein
  17. Austria
  18. Czech
  19. Poland
  20. Vatican
  21. Turkey
  22. Dubai
  23. Abu Dhabi
  24. China
  25. Tibet
  26. Philippines
  27. Australia
  28. Singapore
  29. Japan
  30. United States
  31. Canada
  32. Cuba
  33. Thailand
33 it is! I'm up to par! (one up even for about two weeks to go... hehe)
(check the list of countries to see how the counting works according to TCC)

I'm debating wether I've visited Andorra and/or Monaco, but the people who would know -parents- are on holiday :) so we'll have to sit that one out...

It's safe to say that I will try to keep the score up there. And I know that Shu'll want to join me -or beat me, more likely ;)-

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Such diversity

I attended a barbecue yesterday in Dubai organised by Graham. I met Graham in February when he was so kind to let me CouchSurf at his place.

Let me explain the term Couch Surfing...
CouchSurfing (and Hospitality Club as well) are online communities of people offering other people the chance to stay at their place for free. You sleep on either a bed, a couch, maybe even the ground ;) but you have a warm home to go to. It's a way to save a buck, but more so, you get to meet a local, an interested and interesting person from a new place! It's a whole different way of traveling. You're not bombarded with all the touristy stuff you have in hotels, instead you get a locals perspective of city you're at! Truly unique!

Yesterday Graham and I met up again and he was hosting a CouchSurfing/HospitalityClub barbecue. The turn-up was not the expected 20-25 people, instead, only 11 people were there. But what struck me was how many different nationalities (and personalities!) were actually there.

The nationalities present were:
English (2!)
Italian and
Dutch (guess who...) :)

Wow! Such diversity! And all very different people too!

And all these people offer complete strangers to stay at their place when visiting from another country! All through the networks of CouchSurfing and Hospitality Club! Check them out!

Monday, June 18, 2007

We have Internet!

After long sits in dark internet cafe's, finding free WiFi's to 'borrow' outside buildings and having too much McDonald's because they by far had the best free WiFi... we now have our own internet connection in our house!
This little helper gets us connected and gives us a nice WiFi signal throughout the house!

Find me on GTalk, MSN, Yahoo or S kype (shhh, it's not allowed here!).

I am again... a happy camper! :)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

And some more pics

This is the building we're in:
O, and did I mention that we have a gym and a pool in our building? :)

Friday, June 15, 2007

Our (first!) house!

We have our own house! Yay :)

It's a 2-bedroom/2 bathroom place in the city centre, located on the 10th floor with a beautiful view of an office building opposite to us!

Have a look at the pictures!

The movers moved the stuff on June 2. They had a blast with 107 (!) packages/boxes... especially the couch, which would not fit in the elevator. Oops.
They unpacked most of the stuff, only the kitchen items I left in the boxes for now. As you can see in the pictures, my kitchen is only a fraction of the size of my old one. And for those who know me and/or have seen my previous one: that one already was too small!
The surprise: I haven't quite finished unpacking and organizing everything yet in the kitchen, but it actually looks promising! I might just be able to fit in everything with enough space left to move around! :D

The pictures are actually a little outdated, this is because I haven't posted in such a long time, and I've taken these pictures on moving day... to see how I set up the living room, take a peek at this video. Most people will recognize the furniture ;)

And here is a walk-thru video of our apartment (before moving in, so quite empty).

Anyways, with everything almost in place, and Shu 'almost' on the way: we can soon call this home!

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Bits of My Toronto

My last post sorta made me realize that I had been somewhat in denial about what Toronto meant to me. Subconsciously I started taking notes of the bits of Toronto for me to remember by, and I did so with the digital SLR John lent me (thanks John!). Here are some photos, and I will continue adding more as more are taken. Darn, am I sentimental. :)

Two cool designs I came across this weekend: Crystal and Pulse Light. The first is the new building design for Royal Ontario Museum and it's absolutely phenomenal! The latter is part of Luminato festival. It's consist of 20 high-beam lights installed along harbour front, each of which takes a spectator's impulse by handle bars and pulses the light with the persons's heart beat - think 20 strangers' hearts dancing together in the night sky in the form of lights!

It's not just all fun and photos, meanwhile my packing continues and I'm surprised at how much I can compress my belongings. If I try hard enough, maybe I can fit all my stuff into a stove-size container. :)

As for Q, apparently they had an "interesting" night shift when the cyclone storm Gonu wiped through the Persian Gulf last week, "Boy, what a night it's been.... I've seensome crazy traffic at times, but this was seriously insane. Anyways, we all lived, including the planes/pilots." After four days rest, he has started another 6-work-day rotation.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Apartments, Cars, Driving Tickets... Action!

Yes, apartments, cars, driving tickets... very exciting, isn't it! But since they are Q-related actions, I'll leave them to him to clarify, but just thought to fill in the vacuum a bit. (Sorry for the teaser, everyone!)

Sandra (N.B. friend in NL!) suggested that I should update everyone about my situation in Toronto, so here it is. My flight to Abu Dhabi is likely to be on Sat, July 7 inshallah ("if God's willing" as the Arabs would say). At this point I have about five weeks left. Work-wise, I officially communicated with my managers about my intention of moving to UAE last week. They were very supportive of my decision, and are actively helping me in finding a protential position in UAE and region - can't really say the chance is good, but it matters to me more that the management is trying hard - much appreciated! So worst case, I should be able to get a leave of absence. *Fingers crossed!*

Besides the expected moving-related chores, I have also been busy with some "one-last-time" things, like exploring different neighbourhoods of Toronto and/or Ontario with my friends and family. Among the things that come in mind: a 3-day canoe camping trip in Killarney Park in central Ontario with my friends Viv, Jay and Ben; under-the-star Salsa Sidewalk dancing with my mom; a wonderful dinner to midtown Terroni with my friend Vid; another wonderful dinner to downtown Terroni with my cousin Li; a fun-packed Luminato evening with my friend Ada; an upcoming visit to Hugh's Room (local hotspot for live performances) to see one of my favourite Canadian-Cuban performer Alex Cuba with my friend Thu Huong; an upcoming long-weekend trip to Niagara-on-the-Lake with my friends Criana, Donna and Vid. Yeah, I guess it's fair to say that I'm trying to pack in as much Toronto as I can.

Heck, I am not even gonna try to deny it, I _will_ miss Toronto greatly - not just the amazing city itself, but also my dear friends and family, and the years of laughters, nerdiness and silliness... snow storms, blackfly herds and vintage coats... kensington market, greektown and Salad King, TTC passes, salsa nights and free outdoor events... Just thinking about these things is already getting me very emotional... and I'm literally choked with words, so I'm gonna stop for now and maybe pick up the topic later.

That's all from me for now. Keep on sending those blog suggestions, people. ;)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Q's got wheels! (and his driving license...)

I've got wheels!!

Ok, it's a rental, but still! This means I have a more flexible way of moving around the city, and not having to rely on cabs.
It took me 'this long', because I was not allowed to drive anything on my Dutch or international license, a weird thing really. When you have a visitors visa, you can rent/drive cars. When you have a working permit and are waiting for your residence visa, you are not allowed to drive anything! You first have to wait until your residence permit gets through, then you have to apply (ie convert) for a UAE license! And now I have mine! Here it is:

Next step is to get a car... I want to buy one, really, but I want to scout out what I want exactly... so in the mean time I've decided to rent one. And this makes it so much easier to get around town. You don't have to fear for your life while in cabs (now I fear for my life in my own car!).
It's a white (local color!) Nissan Tiida, ain't it sweet? :)

Monday, May 28, 2007


欢迎大家有机会来看看. Q和我非常欢迎大家. 谢谢关注我们! 感谢刘华涛和赵鸿靖翻译的大力支持!

N.B. That's a shout-out to my friends in China (and it applies to all our friends). It loosely translates to "Everyone's welcomed to visit. Q and I would be happy to have you here. Thank you for following our update. And special thanks to LHT & ZHJ for helping me with the Chinese translation. :)".

Homesick already?

Today I purchased a return ticket to Amsterdam! I'll be there from Friday, July 27 until Monday, July 30!

Homesick already, I hear you ask. No, not that :) but the opportunity was there and on that particular weekend that I'm going I am invited to a wedding and a group of friends will go sailing. Shu will most likely join me as well, but we still have to purchase her ticket. And she's contemplating on traveling for a while thereafter through Europe, so her ticket will be different to mine anyways.

List of things to do if enough time:
* eat herring
* have beer and sate at the Stoof

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Wanted Ad

While browsing for used furniture online on Golf News classified, I noticed the following - it is seriously funny.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Primer on Shu and Q's Relationship

Looks like I've done a much worse job with keeping my friends updated, so to avoid further confusion, here's a little primer on our relationship so far.

Nov 2004 - Q and I met in Cuba while backpacking. I was born and raised in China, but lived in Toronto. Q was half-Dutch and half-Filipino from The Netherlands. Besides each other, we also met Sara, a Spanish girl living in London. We all became very good friends and stayed in touch since then.

Jul 2005 - I visited the Netherlands and couch-surfed at Q's apartment thanks to his generous offer.

Dec 2005 - Q and I travelled to southwest US together, and that's when we started dating.

Mar 2007 - After a year and half's long distance dating, we want to be a bit closer to each other, and that's when we decided to move to Abu Dhabi together. Why AD? I'll let Q answer that - he has to do *some* posting, right? ;)

May 2007 - Q arrived in Abu Dhabi and started his new job with GCAA (General Civil Aviation Authority) continuing to be an air traffic controller.

Jul 2007 - I'll be joining Q in AD, inshallah (if God's willing). :) At this point, I'd likely to have quit my job in Toronto, and will likely take this opportunity to do some travelling before looking for a job in AD, once again inshallah!

Okay, I do feel a little silly now that I've typed up all this, but heck, if it helps even one of my friends to go "ahh", then my goal is achieved.

First Guest Already?!?

Yep, that's right - it looks like we may have our first visiting guest very soon - in fact, it's likely the person will arrive in Abu Dhabi on the same day as I do! That's right. "Time and tide waits for no man!" Well, sure someone is quick in catching on the wave. ;)

Q and I talked about asking visitors to guest-blog when they are in town, so maybe that's when you'll find out the identity of the mystery person. :)

Oh, pssst, did I mention that we don't have an apartment yet? :D

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Clarification About My Situation

So I forwarded this blog link to some of my friends and now everyone is confused as to where I am. Just to clarify, Q moved to UAE in early May. I am still in Toronto, and will likely take my one-way flight in early July. My apology for the poor communication!

Housing Madness

To use the word "madness" to describe the rental housing situation in Abu Dhabi is a bit of understatement. Q has been diligently searching for an apartment for almost three weeks now and so far he's only seen 6 or 7 apartments. Given the size of a big city like Abu Dhabi it is pretty pathetic that it's all there is available, thanks to a way-too-hot-in-demand rental market. Rumour has it, and I quote Q's email note, "17 apts (N.B. apartments) in another building close to our hotel went within one day, 8 apts in the TCA building (2 bdrm) went between 2pm and 7pm"!

So to cope with the madness, we've decided to go mad ourselves. Q just informed a real estate agent that we'd like to be put on the list for a 2-bedroom unit that will be finished "in 15 days" even though we have not even seen the apartment or a model! And the rent is in the range of AED 100k/year (~US$ 2300/month)! And that's not the end of it, as Q put it, "Until I step into an apartment, I will keep on looking." *Fingers crossed!*

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

First Morning Shift!

After two night shifts and four days of resting, Q is ready to start his first morning shift, and also his first real cycle of rotation. Good luck!

Friday, May 18, 2007

First day in the new country

May 5, 2007
After sleeping in big time (gosh, I hadn't done that in a _loooong_ while), I wanted to scout out the area. For one, I did not know where exactly, or even roughly, I was in the city. Outskirts? Near the city centre? No clue. I was 'fearing' that we would live close to our work, which is on the the eastern side of the island, and a great deal way from the city centre. Time to find out.

Getting to the reception I saw two guys standing in front of me. I had heard at some point that I would be training with two guys, two South Africans. So I took a guess and asked them if they were SA's, and they were. Sheer luck would have it that we ran in to each other right from the get-go! Johan and Gerhard, or Master G :)

We decided to scout the city out together. We took a cab to Marina Mall, which is the posh, very big mall on the tip of the island. I started looking around and trying to get my bearings, to my great surprise, we were just outside the heart of downtown! And going to Marina Mall was actually going out of our way since there is a mall just a few blocks away from the hotel. But we went to Marina anyway. Long story short, we had a very good time and we got to know each other slightly better. And we get along! Big bonus!

Listening talking in Afrikaans is weird, never met (and spent time with) South Africans before, so it's interesting to listen to them. I really have to pay attention to get what they say, but it is cool and strange at the same time to understand as much as I do. Johan is from Cape Town and Gerhard is from Joburg, or Johannesburg (just love the abbreviation they use for it).

Anyways, we also got to do our shopping at Carrefour, a huge one right in the mall. Gosh, the ordeal of having to buy everything new again, pepper, salt, sugar, olive oil, soap, flour, everything! I think I'll make quite a few trips before I'm well and truly satisfied with the contents of my kitchen. Hey, who would've thought otherwise :)

After having rested in the hotel for a little bit, we decided to venture out some more and discover the area around our hotel. Johan was craving Burger King, which he had seen along the way coming back from Marina Mall. We obliged and started looking for it. I, on the other hand, discovered that the BK Johan was looking for was actually one block away from an Indian restaurant Shu and I had visited on our trip in February. So I made up my mind and decided not to go for fast food but for for Indian instead, Gerhard happily obliged. Johan brought his BK with him and we sat down at the Indian restaurant. Both G and I ordered some currys with some garlic naan. Fin-ger-li-cking-good :) yumyum. Johan regretted having taken BK and promised himself he would visit this restaurant again soon!

It was getting late, so we started walking back. On my way I found an internet cafe, which I stopped at so I could chat to Shu, the parents and a few other ppl. Very annoying, my hotel does not have internet, so that's why I had to look for it elsewhere. Shu put it best when she said: "It's almost like you're alive again by being online :)"

Thursday, May 17, 2007


Trying as best as we can, we set up 'dates', where we spend one-on-one time with each other. Of course we have to consider the time difference of 8 hours! So either I'm sleepy, or Shu is, or we both are ;)

The internet connection in the internetcafe is not the best quality, unfortunately. So after a good deal of 'denial-and-error' we found the ideal situation that actually works!

Talk about multitasking: we use GTalk to talk, MSN to look at Shu's webcam and Yahoo to look at mine! For some reason neither program lets us do everything at the same time!

Gold Star for Q!

Just by reading the post, you'd have no idea how miserable I've been feeling for the past couple days. Thanks Q for helping me recognize it. For that, here's a gold star! :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

All Hands on Board

After about a week and half's theory training, Q will be going into his first shift tonight! WOOHOO! FYI, there are three type of shifts: morning (07:30-14:30), afternoon (14:30-22:30) and night (22:30-07:30), and the night shifts are usually the busiest, so all hands on board! Good luck sweetie!

Also Q and the other two fellow new hires have moved to another hotel nearby, and they are sharing one hotel suite to cut down accomodation cost. Q lost out to the coin flippings, but he ended up getting the master bedroom since the other two preferred the living room and study, so everyone's happy with what they got!

In the mean time, the house hunting continues. The good news is that we have some options, the bad news is the options we have are not quite what we had in mind - either too expensive or too awkward. Oh, the joy of decision making. :)

p.s. I feel like Q's spokeswoman, but what the heck, that's the least I can do to help, right? :)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Q arrives in Abu Dhabi

May 5th, 2007
Arrived in Abu Dhabi after an uneventful flight. My friend Desirée told me she once flew to Abu Dhabi and she really loved the airport for its design, and I have to say: I was very impressed by the looks of it. Basically it's a round 2-storey building with no support columns within the structure, apart from the centre one. The centre column had the shape of a whirlpool, so small below and growing bigger on top (donut-shaped). And then almost the whole ceiling is covered in different shapes and sizes of colorful tiles. Should you fly thru the airport, have a look! I promise, you won't be able to miss it! (picture not taken by Q, linked from WikiPedia)

My new employer had arranged for a cab to bring me to my hotel. And boy, was the cab ride interesting. When Shu and I visited Abu Dhabi 3 months ago, we learned quickly that the regular cabs are suicide machines. They drive like sheer maniacs. But there are also the more expensive cabs, they have luxury items as air conditioning, seat belts in the back seats (!) and all in all decent cars. The drivers speak English, something which could not always be said for the drivers in the 'regular' cabs. My ride to the hotel was with the more expensive taxi company. He drove for several stretches at speeds of 200 km/hr!! Ok, traffic was not too busy, and I did not fear for my life as I did with the other cabbies earlier this year, but still....

Right now I'm staying in a hotel until I find an apartment. The hotel I'm staying at is more of an appartment/suites kinda hotel. So I have a living room, bed room, kitchen and bathroom. Very decent! In the kitchen are a washing machine, gas (!) stove and fridge. Very handy should I desire to do some cooking (which I'm sure I will desire if I am going to stay here for at least a month!). Ok, you pay the price for it... so hopefully will find something else soon!

But I'm almost forgetting the bigger picture here:
After having played with the idea of moving to another country for 2 1/2 years, and finally making the decision to actually _do_ it last December, to the point in March where I got the job offer and I basically had 8 weeks to wrap up my life in NL: Yesssssssss! I'm finally here!

Let the fun begin! :)

Fish Outta Water

One of the challenges with a new environment is to establish ways of communicate with the outside world. So what has Q tried so far?

- Internet. The wonderfully equipped hotel does not have internet, not even you are willing to pay for it. Just outside the hotel wall there is wireless signal, but it's very weak and unstable. So we have the ever-popular internet cafes. Personally I've been to a few of them around the world, and I have to give it to the ones in UAE - they are definitely unique in their own way: clean cubicles, slow computers, and loud "neighbours". (N.B. by comparision, the Chinese ones are dirty, slow and quiet.) Q and I tried to have our date one night, and it took him 4 tries to find a decent computer - "decent" as it only crashed every half an hour instead of five minutes. The chat setup was the kicker - MSN didn't work, so we used Gtalk for voice and Yahoo msnger for video. The end result? See Q above. Woohoo! :)

- Cell phone. Q got a local cell phone number on the 3rd day, and he's still trying to figure out why we couldn't txtmsg each other. At least phone calls work though, at the cost of 2 Dhr (~C$ .60) per minute, so quite expensive.

- Hotel phone. This works - thanks God. But I have yet to understand what the hotel receptionists are saying when they pick up the calls. (N.B. Apparently I have great difficulties with understanding Indo/Pakistanian accents.) I am almost certain that they say "hello" at one point. ;)

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Thoughts on Farewell Parties

I want to share with you my few thoughts on Q's farewell parties (Apr 27th and 28th). From the party at Pallas pub, I must say both Q and I were pleasantly surprised with the great turn-out and overwhelmed by the amount of TLC that night. Thank you everyone for your well wishes. I particuarly appreciate your effort of getting to know me better. For those of you who couldn't make to the event, I want to share the video clip with you - it's called "Q is Good for You!" and it contains a series of photos from Q's "terrible past". I hope you will enjoy it! :) And for some actions from the party, here are some photos taken by Jeroen.

Another great party was hosted by Wads and Bart (N.B. Q's parents) in their house. Oh, you should've seen their wonderful spring garden, so many bright colors, different layers and scents - such a feast of senses! It was very warm to meet with the close family friends who watched Q grow up. My apologies to the guests for being so tired that night, I felt bad that I couldn't talk with you more and get to know you better. Oh, and please do share some stories of Q's "terrible past" with me next time. :)

Final thought. It was interesting to realize that even though Wads, Bart, Q and I were together for the farewell party in Den Haag, yet a week later when Q was flying to Abu Dhabi, Bart was on his way home from Paris, I was already back in Toronto, and Wads was in Den Haag still. So from one location to four within a week - such an exciting and dynamic time in our lives!

Friday, May 11, 2007

The big day!

May 4, 2007, the *big* day... I slept very little, basically because I wasn't done packing, what else is new :)

Woke up at 6 and started finishing the last few things, we left for the airport at 10.30. We rode 2 cars, my mom with Mark and me with Cindy. But that was not all. What can I say... touched by so many people who came to see me off, or was it just to make sure I'd leave the country? ;) thank you, my mom, Isabelle, Sandra, Hassan, Cindy, Maarten, Donny, Lizzy, Kathy and Mark, for making it so special. I later learned that the whole group went for lunch at Maarten's place. Gosh, making me jealous already :)

I was a little (understatement) worried about my luggage. I had 'quite a lot' of stuff to bring, although I had tried to pack as much stuff in the container that was going to be shipped to me by sea. All in all I checked in 36 kg (I was allowed 30 kg) without a glitch. Glad they didn't weigh my handcarry. I had two, one was around 13 kg and my other (with all my camera equipment and laptop) was around the same.... hehe... I managed to get away with it, luckily.

After going through customs the next thing was duty free shopping. Going to a muslim country it is always tricky how much, if any, alcohol to bring. And since alcohol is difficult to get, and if you can get it: expensive! I decided to see what I could bring and stock up! 4 litres in total! You betcha I brought the full monty. Mark can be proud of me, I also got a nice single malt Macallan whiskey sample pack and a nice bottle of Jameson 18 yrs. I've tried 2 out of 4 so far, and yum! Mark: you know what to bring when you come over...

I flew the national airline, KLM and had a good seat with plenty of legroom. It was almost direct, it made a quick stopover at Bahrain, very close to UAE. After that to Abu Dhabi.

Welcome All!

Welcome everybody!

This is the blog that Shu and I will use to keep you posted on what's happening in the sandpit! For those who don't know us: we are Shu and Q, two 'Chinos' (as the Cubans called us when we met there in 2004) moving to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates!

If you wish to be e-mailed when this blog is updated, please leave a comment or mail either one of us!